Before their long-running weekly gig at Dante's came to an end, Portlanders with a taste for hot-buttered soul could sate themselves regularly with Black Angel. Now that the band's live show is harder to come by, Bitter Suite puts the balm back within easy reach. The twin croons of J.R. Pella and Tahoe Jackson (one shiny dollar to the lucky contestant who can tell one from the other with perfect accuracy) ice 11 original slices of feline old-school love-soul, a sound untouched by time since about 1973. Though a tinge of melancholy prevails, those pining for a pheromonal new D'Angelo album should rejoice. The only real question: If you don't have a hot tub in your bedroom, should you buy this disc? (ZD)
Black Angel plays Thursday, Oct. 31, at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 9 pm. $10.
Earl Grey Tea
There's a time and a place for everything: Once upon a time, it was significant for girls to sing off-key, melodically simple songs. But since, say, 1990, advancements in ultra-catchy indie-pop-pop-pop (triplicate for maximum cuteness) have made those older, more intentionally awkward songs a little irrelevant. Indie rock no longer needs to be rudimentary. So, Earl Grey Tea, by local band the Culottes, is enjoyable, but leaves you wondering, "Why?" (Godfre Leung)
Today's Adventures in Science...
(Will Create Tomorrow's America) (self-released)
By now, the kids know how to make a retro-New Wave album: Fire up the synths, skittery drum machines and stiff-necked pop hooks. Portland's Reload, a twisted one-man band consisting of dapper coroner-by-day Brian Applegate, kills the clichés by applying them with single-minded, straight-faced, veiny-necked fanaticism. Today's 10 wired songs are more atavistic than retro--a future-primitive masterpiece more New Wave than New Wave itself. Guitar lines move with the herky-jerky momentum of old kung fu action scenes; every splash of antiquated synthesizer is as rubbery as Plastic Man. If the Descendents suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and an incurably black (yet funny!) view of life on Planet Earth, maybe they could have written songs like "Fat Girls on Bicycles" and "I Wish My Friends Were Drug Addicts." As it happens, that's Reload's job. (ZD)
The Black Heart Procession
Amore del Tropico
(Touch and Go)
For the last few years, San Diego's Black Heart Procession has been the creepy, insular family in the degenerating mansion at Indie Street's dead end. They issued frequent foreboding reports of dire conditions inside, but seldom left the property. But, by god, even Gomez and Morticia need sun, and Amore del Tropico marks something of a warm-weather break from previous BHP efforts' uniformly funereal, weathered Euro-folk sound. Tinges of Cuban piano and voodoo drums lend a louche Caribbean air, though they evoke crumbling Old City palaces and rum-soaked ruin of the soul rather than pristine beaches and pliant Florida State spring breakers. True to the happy holiday theme, this is the most outgoing Processional to date--a murder mystery, in fact, rather than relentless doomy personal introspection. (Supposedly, there's even a forthcoming film; we're betting on noir.) David Lynch would be proud of a "plot" as slippery as this. Like David the Weird, Black Heart Procession isn't as interested in telling a coherent story as in digging into the murkier miseries of consciousness. Even in the sunny southlands, the pall remains the same. (ZD)
You're a Big Girl Now
Though nowhere near as devastating as last year's Been Here and Gone--which ought to come with a Surgeon General's warning because if it doesn't depress you to death, you'll want to drink turpentine whiskey until you sound as cool as Thalia--this EP proves Bob Dylan should never sing his own songs again. Thalia Zedek was born to rescue him from that arduous chore. On the title song, she manages to sound exactly like a female version of the man himself, just 50 times better. Her secret: Unlike most who cover Dylan, she smooths no edges. Also included here are Lou Reed's "Candy Says" and four originals that won't let you down in the resigned-to-alienation department. (Becky Ohlsen)